[aprssig] ***SPAM*** Oh No!! Fake Prolific 2303 USB<-->Serial Chip Fiasco Now Spreading To FTDI
Stephen H. Smith
wa8lmf2 at aol.com
Sat Mar 28 00:01:33 EDT 2015
For several years, Prolific Technology has been attempting to fight Chinese
counterfeit copies of their USB<-->serial chip by playing games with recent
versions of the driver they provide for this device. The current driver
somehow determines that a device has a fake 2303 chip and refuses to install or
run. This breaks numerous devices (USB-serial dongles, USB-interface GPS
units, radio programming cables, etc.) that contain "fake" chips.
Windows Update automatically updates the Prolific driver when it finds it
present in a Windows installation. This has the effect of causing devices that
initially worked with an older version Prolific driver, provided with the
device, to stop working after Windows Update "helpfully" updates to the "DRMed"
driver. More details on the Prolific mess here on my website:
For the last year or so, the conventional wisdom was that to avoid this
headache, insist on USB<-->serial dongles based on the FTDI chip instead. Now
it appears that Scotland-based FTDI is facing the same problems (Chinese fakes)
and is taking even more drastic action. Their latest drivers are actually
reflashing the internal EEPROM of fake FTDI chips to render them nonfunctional
even if you reinstall an older non-DRM driver. This has the effect of
permanently "bricking" the device the chip is embedded in.
I somehow missed this story on Slashdot.org when it first ran last October, but
a passing reference and a link to it appeared today (27 Mar 15):
"FTDI Reportedly Bricking Devices Using Competitors' Chips.
It seems that chipmaker FTDI has started an outright war on cloners of their
popular USB bridge chips. At first the clones stopped working with the official
drivers, and now they are being intentionally bricked, rendering the device
useless. The problem? These chips are incredibly popular and used in many
consumer products. Are you sure yours doesn't contain a counterfeit one before
you plug it in? Hackaday says, "It’s very hard to tell the difference between
the real and fake versions by looking at the package, but a look at the silicon
reveals vast differences. The new driver for the FT232 exploits these
differences, reprogramming it so it won’t work with existing drivers. It’s a
bold strategy to cut down on silicon counterfeiters on the part of FTDI. A
reasonable company would go after the manufacturers of fake chips, not the
consumers who are most likely unaware they have a fake chip."
In a series of Twitter posts, FTDI has admitted to doing this. "
Stephen H. Smith wa8lmf (at) aol.com
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